NASHVILLE, Tenn. (March 23, 2008) – The U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team fell to Honduras, 1-0, in overtime of the 2008 CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Final. Both teams, by virtue of winning their respective semifinal games, had already qualified for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
The Honduras goal, scored by George Wilson Welcome in the 103nd minute, was the just the second goal allowed by the U.S. during five games in qualifying, and the first goal since the opening half of their match against Cuba, a streak of 421 minutes.
Thursday night’s victory over Canada clinched the USA’s 13th trip to the Olympic Games on the men’s side. The 2008 Beijing Olympics will be played from Aug. 6-23 in five venues, and will mark the USA’s first trip to the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament since 2000, when the team advanced to the medal round and finished in fourth place.
“I congratulated our players in the locker room for their effort,” said U.S. head coach Peter Nowak. “It was a very difficult tournament for us and for both teams in terms of knowing how you’re supposed to prepare yourself from game to game. As we said, we work on the spirit and the team mentality and it worked pretty well. We’re happy to be going to the Olympic Games and sometimes for the players it’s just, they’re relieved to get it all behind them and looking forward to getting some MLS games." (More quotes)
Overall, the U.S. finished the tournament with a 3-1-1 record, allowing just two goals in five games while scoring six. Freddy Adu, who was named to the Best XI by the CONCACAF Technical Committee on Saturday, led all goalscorers with four tallies in three games played. Maurice Edu, Dax McCarty and Michael Orozco were also named to the Best XI, while midfielder Sacha Kljestan earned Honorable Mention.
Against Honduras, the U.S. was without the services of four European-based players where allowed to return to their club teams for weekend matches. Along with Adu, Charlie Davies, Jonathan Spector and Sal Zizzo made their way back across the pond on Friday.
With just 16 players to choose from, Nowak once again made a number changes to his lineup, keeping Edu, McCarty and Jozy Altidore on the bench to start the match. Edu would come on in the 26th minute to replace an injured Hunter Freeman, while Altidore would come on in the 80th minute as the U.S. looked for the game-winner.
Despite the changes, the U.S. was the more dominant team throughout the match and outshot Honduras 23-9, but couldn’t find the back of the net. Stuart Holden, Robbie Findley and Eddie Gaven were at the center of most of the U.S. opportunities in the first half, with Holden creating the first chance of the game in just the third minute. Getting free down the right flank, Holden swung in a cross, but the Honduras defense was up to the task, as it was all night, and cleared the ball out of danger.
The U.S. started to pepper the Honduras goal early, but it was Holden who was able to put the first shot on goal for the U.S. in the 27th minute. Four minutes later, Findley got free down the right side and crossed a ball into the box for forward Chad Barrett, but his header went just over the crossbar.
In the 33rd minute, the U.S. created possibly the best chance for either team in the first half when Gaven collected the ball in midfield and pushed forward. The Columbus Crew midfielder fed the ball to Robbie Findley, who was able to avoid a tackle and slip the ball to Edu inside the box. Edu unleashed a shot that looked destined for the lower right corner, but Honduras goalkeeper Kevin Hernandez was able to push it wide.
The U.S. had the first dangerous opportunity of the second half less than a minute after the whistle, when Barrett laid the ball off for Gaven., who found Holden in the box. Holden touched the ball back for Kljestan, but his hard shot was blocked by the head of Erick Norales and cleared away.
Despite the Americans controlling most of the match, Honduras almost took the lead in the 53rd minute when U.S. goalkeeper Dominic Cervi came off his line for a through ball, beating the attacker but giving up a rebound. Luis Alfredo Lopez jumped on the loose ball and took a shot to the near post, but it was saved off the line by defender Pat Ianni. Marvin Sanchez pounced on the ensuing rebound, putting his shot toward the far post, but it went out for a corner.
The U.S. had a fantastic opportunity to take the lead in the 71st minute when Barrett received the ball on the right wing and played it in for Findley, who headed the ball down on goal, but it bounced up and hit the cross bar before being touched out of bounds by Marvin Sanchez.
With the temperatures continuing to drop on a cool evening in Nashville, the teams moved into overtime to decide the Final and it was Honduras that took advantage. In the 103rd minute of the first overtime, Welcome produced a great individual effort that would eventually allow Honduras to raise the trophy on the field after the match. Sitting near the top of the penalty area, he received a ball from the left flank, touched it around Orozco and uncorked a driving shot into the upper right corner from 22 yards out.
The U.S. and Honduras join 13 other teams who have already entered the 16-team tournament, with one spot still up for grabs for a team from Africa. The draw for the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament will take place on April 20 in Beijing.
- U.S. UNDER-23 MEN’S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT -
Match-up: USA vs. Honduras
Competition: 2008 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Final
Venue: LP Field; Nashville, Tenn.
Date: March 23, 2008
Weather: 55 degrees, breezy
1 2 1OT 2OT F
USA 0 0 0 0 0
HON 0 0 1 0 1
HON – Georgie Wilson Welcome (Marvin Sanchez) 103rd minute
USA: 18-Dominic Cervi; 15-Kamani Hill, 3-Michael Orozco, 4-Pat Ianni, 13-Hunter Freeman (6-Maurice Edu, 26); 7-Stuart Holden (2-Marvell Wynne, 89), 16-Sacha Kljestan (capt.), 5-Nathan Sturgis, 20-Eddie Gaven; 19-Chad Barrett (12-Jozy Altidore, 80), 14-Robbie Findley
Subs not used: 1-Chris Seitz, 10-Dax McCarty
Head Coach: Peter Nowak
HON: 1-Kevin Hernandez; 2-Quiarol Arzu, 3-David Alejandro Molina, 5-Erick Norales (capt.), 6-Luis Alfredo Lopez (18-Jose Cesar Guity, 69), 7-Rigoberto Padilla, 8-Irvin Reyna, 10-Ramon Nunez (13-Arnol Solorzano, 115), 16-Marvin Sanchez, 21-Oscar Morales (14-Misael Ruiz, 43), 24-George Wilson Welcome
Subs not used: 9-Jefferson Bernardez, 15-Mario Martinez, 17-Daniel Alvarez, 22-Levon Smith
Head Coach: Alexis Mendoza
USA / HON
Shots on Goal: 6/3
Corner Kicks: 9/4
HON – David Alejandro Molina (caution) 20th minute
HON – Marvin Sanchez (caution) 45+.
USA – Stuart Holden (caution) 68.
HON - Misael Ruiz (caution) 83.
USA – Marvell Wynne (caution) 119.
USA – Patrick Ianni (caution) 120.
Referee: Joel Aguilar (SLV)
1st Asst.: William Torres (SLV)
2nd Asst.: Leonel Leal (CRC)
4th Official: Jose Guerrero (NCA)
Sierra Mist Man of the Match: Stuart Holden